The head of the Church Safeguarding Commission, which handles abuse allegations, has proposed that all organisations working with children or vulnerable adults should by law have similar structures in proportion to their size.

The commission was set up in 2015 by the Archdiocese of Malta to prevent all types of abuse, support victims and create a safe environment.

In an opinion piece for Times of Malta published on Sunday, its head, Andrew Azzopardi, says child abuse is hugely underreported. He cites a figure from the UK saying that only four per cent of child abuse cases are reported to the police.

In Malta, a register lists people who, following a conviction, are not allowed to work with children. But this system does not provide the necessary safeguards for children, parents and organisations, Azzopardi argues.

Writing a few days after two priests were arraigned in a Gozo court and charged with historical child sex abuse, he also proposes the setting up of an independent body to manage the register and ensure that any person known to pose a risk to children is placed on it.

Malta register... system does not provide the necessary safeguards for children

He also points out that Children’s House, “hastily inaugurated” in 2017, has not yet started functioning as an extension of the courts four years later. Children’s House is intended to provide a safe environment for children to testify in abuse cases away from the court building.

“Victims of abuse need more concrete actions from policymakers and a judiciary ready to go the extra mile to support them in their journey towards justice and healing,” writes Azzopardi.

Among other recommendations, he says the country needs a minister for children to focus exclusively on children’s needs and rights, and an e-safety commissioner for a safer, more positive experience online.

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